You’re in Luck

I’d thought before about how the appellation “lucky” is applied to so many Oz characters. Well, only three that I can think of, but that’s still kind of weird. They were introduced by three different authors, however. The first is Ojo, who is initially called Ojo the UNlucky.

He doesn’t seem to know why when Margolotte identifies him as such in The Patchwork Girl of Oz; but later he tells his traveling companions that it’s because he was born on Friday the Thirteenth, is left-handed (as was L. Frank Baum himself), and has a wart under his right arm. They dismiss these reasons, and the Tin Woodman recommends he change it to “Ojo the Lucky,” because he’s more or less inviting bad luck. If Ruth Plumly Thompson’s Ojo is any indication, the “unlucky” might have had to do with his being born into captivity. I don’t think Thompson ever actually called Ojo “the Lucky” or “the Unlucky,” however. But in the book right after Ojo, which was Speedy, she introduces a giant called Loxo the Lucky. According to Fred Meyer’s essay in the International Wizard of Oz Club’s edition of the book, a trade list erroneously referred to the character as “the giant Ojo,” perhaps because they used the same adjective. The thing is, when we first meet Loxo he really ISN’T that lucky, as he’s hit in the head with a flying island.

Maybe the description has something to do with his magic magnet, which he can use to draw anything toward him. The last of the three is John R. Neill’s Lucky Bucky, who manages to make a lot of narrow escapes in his own book, including surviving a boiler explosion on his uncle’s tugboat. His companion is the wooden whale Davy Jones.

I thought it would be fun to write a story involving all three, with Loxo no longer in giant form, which makes sense considering how Speedy ends.

(Fred Otto’s “The Forbidden Cave of Grapelandia” also briefly addresses Loxo’s life after being shrunk down.) I’m not entirely sure what they’d do, though. In my own novella, Prince Pompadore in Oz (published in the 2015 Oziana), I wrote in a gag about a boat called Good Luck that saves Pompa’s life, then later decided to do something else with it. I was considering making it the product of magic-workers who were trying to channel luck, but ended up going with a bit of a play on commercialism by making it advertising for a casino run by a leprechaun.

There is another leprechaun in the Oz books, Siko Pompus (spelled Psychopompus in earlier drafts), Jenny Jump‘s fairy godfather who gives her magic powers in Wonder City.

Some post-Famous Forty books also use them, including Mark Haas’s appropriately titled Leprechauns and Melody Grandy’s Zim Greenleaf. I’m not entirely sure how leprechauns came to be associated with luck, however. There are Irish legends that, if you can catch a leprechaun, he will grant you wishes, so that might be part of it. But I also think it might be sort of a combination of different Irish folklore filtered through an American lens, sort of like how leprechauns traditionally wear red but are now pretty much always depicted in green because of the Emerald Isle. From what I’ve seen, the phrase “luck o’ the Irish” was originally coined because of Irish immigrants having success in mining, but it’s also often been used ironically, as Ireland as a nation hasn’t always been particularly lucky. I don’t even know that Lucky the cereal mascot is all that lucky, since it seems to be his fate to be constantly chased around by hungry children.

I was trying to think of other characters associated with luck, and I came up with a few. One is the Luck Dragon from The Neverending Story, who was named Fuchur in the original German after the Japanese Fukuryu, or “lucky dragon,” also the name of a squad of divers during World War II. The English translation changed it to Falkor because, well, look at the first four letters of the German. The descriptions in the novel give him paws and hair, and the movie makes him very dog-like.

He’s a very amiable companion to Atreyu, and is known to attract good fortune. I don’t think he’d be out of place in Oz.

A less positive look at luck comes with Gladstone Gander in Carl Barks’s Donald Duck comics, who’s Donald’s extremely lucky cousin. As Donald is associated with bad luck (it’s in his theme song), that makes sense for a foil of his. He’s portrayed as very lazy and insufferably smug, getting everything he wants through no effort of his own, and often at the expense of others.

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series has a goddess representing luck, which is technically her name, but it’s a bad idea to use it so she just goes by “the Lady,” being the only deity who only comes when not invoked. She’s a rival to Fate and rather fond of the failed wizard Rincewind. He’s not someone you’d generally think of as lucky, as he’s always getting dragged into difficult and dangerous situations against his will. Still, he also always manages to survive by making narrow escapes. She appears in the first Discworld book, The Colour of Magic, then again in Interesting Times and The Last Hero. Her title is a play on “Lady Luck,” an anthropomorphic personification inspired by Tyche, the Greek goddess of luck. Her Roman equivalent, Fortuna, was often portrayed as blind.

And Deadpool 2 used Domino, a mutant with the power to manipulate probability. I didn’t know about the character before that, but apparently she first appeared in the comics in 1992, as part of X-Force.

She has pale white skin in the comics, but was played by black actress Zazie Beetz in the movie.

And here’s some Domino cosplay by Shayla and Cheyenne.

And some real people were called “Lucky,” like Leif Erikson and Charles Lindbergh.

Luck is a strange concept, because while it’s related to probability, it’s a lot more casual. Sometimes it’s entirely a matter of random chance, but you might wish someone good luck before a job interview, and that’s unpredictable but not random. A lot of religions and philosophies play down the importance of luck, suggesting that you get what you deserve, but it’s difficult to defend that position in light of real-life circumstances. It is possible to attract bad luck in the sense that, if you expect to fail, you might not put in as much effort. But at the same time, you can be totally confident and put in all the effort and still fail. A lot of it is outside a person’s control, which sucks, but at the same time also means that things not working out is not necessarily your fault.

This entry was posted in Advertising, Authors, Characters, Comics, Discworld, Greek Mythology, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Melody Grandy, Mythology, Oz, Oz Authors, Philosophy, Religion, Roman, Ruth Plumly Thompson, Terry Pratchett and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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